Romney’s guy could leave Santorum off Indiana ballot

Indiana campaign co-chair won’t recuse himself from ballot access decision.

February 15, 2012

Michael Puente and the Associated Press

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Indiana’s presidential primary isn’t for another three months but there’s already a ballot issue brewing on the Republican side.

Granted, Republicans might decide on their presidential nominee before Indiana's primary vote on May 8, but Rick Santorum's Hoosier supporters could find their hopes dashed weeks before that — and a co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Indiana campaign could have a hand in it.

Like all statewide candidates, Santorum needs 500 nominating petition signatures from each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts. Currently, he’s eight signatures shy of that minimum within Indiana’s 7th congressional district, which includes the city of Indianapolis. So, the Indiana Election Commission will meet February 24 to decide whether to allow Santorum on the ballot.

Schererville, Indiana, resident Dan Dumezich heads that commission, but he also happens to co-chair Mitt Romney’s campaign in Indiana.

Dumezich, who has a law practice based in Chicago, has gotten flak for this and has been asked to recuse himself. But Dumezich told WBEZ on Tuesday that he will not have it.

“There is no conflict,” Dumezich said. “It’s a political board so everyone there has a certain amount of political activity associated with them. Frankly, if you had to recuse yourself every time you gave somebody a donation, there wouldn’t be anybody there to hear the cases.”

Five Indiana voters filed challenges to Santorum's candidacy on Monday. The four-member, bipartisan Election Commission must decide on those challenges by March 1.

For his part, Dumezich said he can be fair.

"In my mind I can always maintain my objectivity," Dumezich said, adding that the election commission tends to err on the side of ballot access when it hears challenges.

Santorum supporter state Sen. Mike Delph says he's confident Dumezich will be fair and that Santorum's name will be on the May ballot.

"I know and believe him to be a man of integrity, and I know he will do the right thing," Delph said.

Voters have until the end of this week to file challenges to candidates they believe should be struck from primary ballots. Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Wallace came up 14 signatures short in the 7th District, but Indiana Election Division co-director Brad King said the only challenges filed so far were against Santorum.